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WHO Begins Discussions on Russia Vaccine

A scientist works inside a laboratory of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology during the testing of a coronavirus vaccine, in Moscow, Russia, Aug. 6, 2020. (Russian Direct Investment Fund / Handout via Reuters)

The World Health Organization's (WHO’s) Europe office said it has begun discussions with Russia regarding the COVID-19 vaccine that the nation approved last week without the advanced trials normally required to prove a vaccine works.

In a virtual news conference from the organization’s Copenhagen office, the WHO Europe’s senior emergency official Catherine Smallwood said there have been several direct discussions between Russia’s teams and the WHO’s pre-qualification colleagues, primarily on how the organization is going to assess the potential vaccine.

The WHO Europe's regional director, Hans Kluge, said that while any potential vaccine is good news, all must go through the same vigorous assessments. Smallwood added "This concern that we have around safety and efficacy is not specifically for the Russia vaccine, it's for all of the vaccines under development."

Smallwood acknowledged that the WHO was taking an "accelerated approach" to try to speed development of coronavirus vaccines but said "it's essential we don't cut corners in safety or efficacy."

Kluge cautioned that even once a vaccine or vaccines are approved, that will not be the end of the pandemic. “The end of the pandemic will be the day when everyone of us will take the responsibility and have been learning how to behave with the virus. And that depends on us, that day can even be tomorrow."